Gareth Southgate has named Ollie Watkins and Sam Johnstone in the England squad for the first time after announcing his squad for March’s international break.
Aston Villa forward Watkins is named amongst the Three Lions’ options following an impressive debut season in the Premier League, the forward having netted 10 league goals since moving to Villa Park in a £28m move from Brentford last summer.
The call marks a remarkable rise for the 24-year-old who was playing non-league football just six years ago and Watkins will be joined by another first inclusion in West Brom goalkeeper Johnstone.
Johnstone has been amongst the few shining lights in a difficult season for the newly-promoted side and joins England’s goalkeeping options after Jordan Pickford was ruled out of the fixtures against San Marino, Albania and Poland later this month.
Southgate has also rewarded John Stones and Luke Shaw with recalls following superb seasons at Manchester City and Manchester United respectively, whilst there is also a place for Jesse Lingard who has starred since signing on loan for West Ham in January.
Lingard was part of the side which reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in 2018, but has not featured at international level since the 2019 Nations League finals after falling out of favour at Manchester United.
Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jude Bellingham is also named in the squad, despite fears the 17-year-old would be forced to miss the internationals amid Germany’s Covid-19 travel restrictions.
There was surprise, however, at the omission of Liverpool full-back Trent Alexander-Arnold, a decision which raises doubts about the 22-year-old’s place in the squad ahead of this summer’s European Championships.
England host San Marino on March 25 in the first of the nation’s World Cup qualifiers, before travelling to Albania three days later.
Southgate’s side will then face Poland at Wembley on March 31 in their third fixture of the international break.
England squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Nick Pope, Dean Henderson, Sam Johnstone
Defenders: Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Reece James, Conor Coady, Eric Dier, Harry Maguire, Tyrone Mings, John Stones, Luke Shaw, Ben Chilwell
Midfield: Declan Rice, Mason Mount, James Ward-Prowse, Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham, Kalvin Phillips, Jesse Lingard, Bukayo Saka
Forwards: Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Ollie Watkins
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